New benefit won't stop Scotland falling short of child poverty target, report warns

More than 77,000 applications have been received for the new Scottish Child Payment. Picture: GettyMore than 77,000 applications have been received for the new Scottish Child Payment. Picture: Getty
More than 77,000 applications have been received for the new Scottish Child Payment. Picture: Getty
A new child benefit scheme hailed by the Scottish Government as the “most ambitious anti-poverty measure” anywhere in the UK will not be enough to meet its own child poverty targets, a new report has warned.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that the Scottish Child Payment benefit has to be “boosted significantly” from its current level if it is to help meet the strict targets.

Its analysis found that as things stand, Scotland is on course to miss its interim child poverty target by four per cent, leaving 40,000 children trapped in poverty as a result.

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The foundation said that if the UK government removes the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, the interim target will be missed by six per cent, or around 50,000 children.

The Scottish Government has set the interim target of having no more than 18 per cent of children living in relative poverty by the end of 2023/24, down from the current total which sees almost a quarter (24 per cent) of youngsters affected - the equivalent of around a quarter of a million children.

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Scottish Child Payment: Parents urged not to miss out on new child benefit

The Scottish Child Payment provides £10 per week for each child under six in households on low incomes. Unlike Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits, there is no two-child limit on the policy, meaning all children in eligible households will benefit from the extra support.

More than 77,000 applications have been received for the scheme as of 7 February. Social Security Scotland started taking applications last November, with the first payments set to be rolled out this month. Shirley-Anne Somerville, the social security secretary, described the benefit as “the most ambitious anti-poverty measure currently being undertaken anywhere in the UK.”

But in its analysis, the foundation said that while the new benefit will significantly reduce the child poverty rate, it was not enough to hit the targets without further action.

It suggested that the goal could be met if the payments are increased by £30 per child, at an additional cost of £380 million a year.

Chris Birt, the foundation’s deputy director for Scotland, challenged every party in Scotland to spell out their plans to tackle the persistent scourge of child poverty.

He said: “All parties in Scotland have made a promise to stamp out child poverty. Politicians and the public have a shared vision of a Scotland in which every child can grow up healthy and safe and go on to live a full and rewarding life.

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“Our analysis shows there’s a lot of work to do but that it is possible to lift thousands of children out of poverty. With an election coming up, all parties must demonstrate how they plan to turn the tide on child poverty and meet their own ambitious targets.

“The Scottish Child Payment is a welcome start, but on its own it does not go nearly far enough. It’s time for all parties to build on this momentum and step up to the challenge. A plan to tackle Scotland’s stubbornly high poverty levels must be a priority in this election. Our children deserve nothing less.”

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